Greece has become the refugees’ first gate entry into the EU. Between January and August 2015, over 271,000 migrants were smuggled by sea or land to Greece.
According to the UNHCR, 10,304 refugees resided in Greece in 2014. In 2014, 7,585 first time asylum applications were made, down from 7,860 in 2013 (Eurostat data). In 2014 the top three citizenships of asylum applicants were Afghanistan (1,710), Pakistan (1,620) and Syria (785).
The majority of refugees arriving in Greece do not apply for asylum there. They leave Greece (and the EU) transiting through Balkans and Hungary (where they re-enter the EU), towards Western and Northern European destinations.
Recently, following deaths and the number of people missing at sea, refugees increasingly choose to cross the Turkish-Greek land border.
The government’s approach
The Greek government emphasised the European dimension of the refugee crisis and at European summits asked for existing tools and emergency funds to be utilised as Greece faces increasing inflows of refugees. The government also asked for European solidarity to respond to the crisis.
The refugee issue was one of the key themes during the campaign preceding the parliamentary elections in September 2015. The opposition accused the Syriza government of an open-door migration strategy. In Greece, support for the far right seems to be strong with the Golden Dawn party now the third biggest party in the Greek parliament.
Refugees in host communities
Volunteers distributed food, water, clothing, provided accommodation and organised transport for refugees arriving on the Greek islands.
On the mainland, before the government opened the Eleonas camp for refugees in Athens, civil society was active in providing facilities and services to refugees. In the Pedio tou Areos park hosting refugees, volunteers managed the distribution of food, clothes, and activities for children.
A solidarity march with refugees took place in Athens.
Attacks on refugees were reported. Police had to intervene.
The media reporting tends to be data-based. The coverage presents different aspects of refugee crisis, integrating testimonials of refugees and the islands’ residents.
In spring 2015, 11 per cent of Greeks declared that immigration is one of the main issues facing the country. This was an increase of 5 percentage points from autumn 2014.